Tag Archives: china

Two Journalists Get 12 Years- For What?

We may never know what “grave crime” journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee committed that got them sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean gulag.

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We do know they were detained at the border with China back in March, and there are those who think the North Korean government will use the pair as some sort of bargaining chip with the US.

If that’s the case, President Barack Obama will find himself in the same box he does when it comes to the country’s nuclear program. North Korea’s government is secretive, and the motive for its actions aren’t always clear.

In this case, those motives are clear as mud. Lee and Ling are reporters for Al Gore’s Current TV, a network, by the way, worth watching.

al-gore_current-tvThere are conflicting reports about the story they were covering. Suffice to say it may not have been flattering to the North Koreans, but how would they know that in advance? The answer is, it doesn’t matter. This government is low enough to use the lives of two reporters as a means to gain a political end. They certainly won’t be the first, but they ought to be the last.

Is the North looking to avoid sanctions the UN is considering for their nuclear weapons testing? Many in the US diplomatic community think so. Those sanctions are being pushed by the US. Secretary of State Clinton says the two issues are “separate and apart” from each other. Does that mean the US isn’t prepared to offer any concessions to North Korea in order to free Ling and Lee?

There’s talk of a high level diplomatic mission to the North. Two prominent names mentioned are New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Vice President Al Gore himself. The latter has maintained a low profile so as not to be perceived as politicizing the effort to free the pair. Richardson says there’s much diplomatic groundwork to be laid before any such effort would have a chance of success. Despite such daunting talk, however, there is some hope. Richardson himself helped arrange the release of US prisoners back in the 1990s. And he also points to the fact that neither reporter was charged with espionage as another hopeful sign.

Yet this entire ugly affair points out a critical vulnerability in US foreign policy. How do you deal with nations that are willing to  jeopardize the lives of our citizens by locking them away in prisons where large numbers of people die of malnutrition and neglect? Do you try diplomacy, or do you take a hard line and simply condemn the action while pushing ahead for sanctions?

There is no easy answer, is there? You tell me.

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Uighurs! Will Europe Take GITMO Detainees? Not if We Don't!

One of the more bizarre aspects of the debate over where to relocate some inmates detained at Guantanamo Bay is this. Several European countries which had previously agreed to take some of them are now hesitating. Their reason?

It’s the reluctance to do the same right here in the USA.

We’re not talking about the high risk terror suspects who will remain locked up. We’re talking about people both military and federal courts said should be freed.

The Obama Administration planned to resettle about 50 detainees in a number of European countries, who had agreed to take them in. The drumbeat of opposition in the Congress to allowing detainees on US soil has until now largely been centered on those who would remain detained. Now, however, the ante has been upped in the case of 17 Chinese Uighur detainees.

Who, you may ask? Uighurs are Chinese Muslims, and all 17 were captured in Afghanistan after the Sept., 11th terror attacks.

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Last October, a federal judge said none posed a security threat and should therefore be freed. Problem is, their attorneys say to return them to China would condemn them to certain imprisonment or possibly death.

The German government had tentatively agreed to resettle nine of the Uighurs in Bavaria, where a community of them already exists. However, the inability of the Obama Administration to reach agreement on resettling several of them in Northern Virginia has seen Germany’s willingness evaporate. The central question here is whether these people represent any security threat, either to the US or Germany.

The US courts have said no, and in fact have ordered the release of 21 GITMO detainees, including the Uighurs.

That’s not good enough for some members of Congress, who want no detainees on US soil, no matter what the courts may say. So then the question must be asked, not of the Europeans but of us. When and under what circumstances are we willing to admit the detention of some of those at Guantanamo was wrong?

We know some of our elected representatives on both sides of the partisan divide have no interest in this fundamental question of justice.

This is not, by the way, a call for freeing dangerous people onto the streets of America, and our elected officials know this (or should). We locked these people up. Dealing with the relocation of the innocent among them is our responsibility, not Europe’s.

So how do we solve this?

The Uighurs and their situation is metaphor for a lot more than simply where they end up. Do we trust our court system? Isn’t this at some point about the rule of law?

You tell me.

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